3 things to consider when naming your start up

When it comes to brand assets, it is your name that ranks as the most important. Names exist without colour, shape, typography or jingle. They exist above it all.

Kaga Bryan
February 2, 2023
5 min read

When it comes to brand assets, it is your name that ranks as the most important. Names exist without colour, shape, typography or jingle. They exist above it all. Even when you see the famous Swoosh symbol, your brain vocalises that as Nike. Get your name right and you fast track into the mind of your audience, building memory structures and association early. Get it wrong and you can be ridiculed or worse, forgotten. There are many things to consider when naming a new business, however I’ve focused on 3 particular areas that support naming success.

1. Go wide and deep

Hans Wildorf once said that a genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in his ear. A few days later the brand was registered. Like many ‘stroke of genius’ stories, that’s not all there was to it. Hans had previously made unusual combinations of letters resulting in 100 random names before this subconscious to conscious event occurred. The general truth is one needs to chew over a lot of territory when naming. Aim to write down as many literal and abstract words that are relevant as you can. It doesn’t matter if they’re direct, trendy or completely emotional and seemingly unrelated. At this point you need a lot of fuel to organise your thinking and if you haven’t done the work here, your choices are dramatically weakened later.

2. Know why you exist

We often see a lot of brands with a combined name, the first word being their industry or service and the second being something self-affirming like hero or pro. It’s not to say this is wrong, especially when your first goal is awareness, but ask yourself:

  • Is this the only industry I want to be in?
  • Is this the only type of service I’ll provide in that space?

I suggest focusing more on the benefit you’re seeking to impart versus the actions the business does. For example, if you were in the medicinal cannabis space my initial thoughts would be to steer you away from going with something like BudHero or WeedKing.


3. Be memorable

Oooft ok this one isn’t easy is it? Well, this list might help.

  • be too literal — as mentioned in point 2.
  • get caught up on being short or snappy as it can limit your potential. Give your audience some credit. ‘Patagonia’ is 5 syllables and beautifully reflects a wild, untamed landscape.
  • try to spell a common word in a counterintuitive manner. It’s often tricky for audiences and therefore a headache with SEO, plus it can look dated if not executed well. (Note: we did create Carma which we’re exceptionally proud of. It’s a CAR MArket that puts good in every element of input for the customer, so that name felt intuitively memorable and easily navigable).
  • copy trends for the sake of ease. Adding an ‘Air’ prefix to your brand won’t make you as disruptive as AirBnB, just like adding an ‘ify’ suffix won’t grant you Spotify’s cultural cache.
  • experiment with positive emotions. Ice cream is always a positive thing, traffic is not.
  • consider how it sounds when said out loud or quickly. I still think Mark Zuckerberg fails to enunciate ‘Meta’, but almost everyone agrees Bumble is easy to say, sounds non-threatening and instantly positive.
  • play with loaded words. I love the name of the creative agency ‘Mother’ — it’s at once powerful, familiar and yet, unexpected.

There is of course other things to explore such as cross-cultural issues and trademarking, but for those on a tight timeline looking to grow quickly, I think this should help.

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